Applying for an MBA, especially one abroad, takes a lot of time, patience, PR skills, and hard work. Katrina Rodriguez, an MBA holder from the Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, shares her experiences and gives a few tips on how you can achieve this milestone. -- ED.

1. Take your MBA after you’ve gotten a bit of experience under your belt.

I took my MBA after three years of work, and I feel like I could have waited three more. I was only 23 back then and a lot younger than my classmates in their mid- to late twenties. A lot of the discussions and learnings in post-graduate classes involves in depth sharing of experiences in a business or work setting. From technical discussions to interpersonal relationships with peers, people who had longer work experiences had more to contribute. Even case studies and exam questions were better “solved” by adding personal anecdotes to theory. Given that most Filipinos are out of school at 21 or 22, late twenties would be a good time to start, which means you’ll need to start looking for the right school for you in your mid-twenties.

Having said that, if you are in your 30s, think hard about whether it is still worth taking your masters. At some point, the weight of solid work experience is much more valuable than that from school. I tracked the career of my colleagues in the Philippines from before I left for my MBA, and by our mid-thirties, we’ve all reached the same point salary and levels. The post-graduate degree gives you the kick in the first few years of your career, but work ethic will still dictate how far you go.

2. Compare schools and do your research.

Don’t just focus on schools in the Philippines in the same way that you shouldn’t only consider schools abroad. Try institutions in all countries. Depending on the course or focus, don’t rule out a nearby Asian country or a local school just because you want to go to London. Asia is the future; jobs are moving here. If you can, find and connect with Filipinos who have graduated from the same school. The school will most likely get input from the alumni, or it could ask them to interview you so it’s best to be prepared.

Once you’ve picked your school, check its official website and study the various scholarships that you may be qualified for to help you cut back on expenses. Through an alumna, I found out my school provided part-time jobs to graduate assistants who helped professors with writing their papers, and it paid for half of my tuition. Another friend found a third party scholarship fund, and another, a government-sponsored fund for foreign students. Every little bit helps with finances!

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3. Make good use of the Internet.

This generation is lucky that everything is now online. I had to go through snail mail applications and ask relatives in the US to send me paper applications in the late '90s. Information is at your fingertips, so make good use of the connectivity to make things easier for you and the school to process your application.

Aside from studying your desired school's website, you can also look at information relevant to it from other online sources such as news sites and even personal blogs. Join forums where you can get first-hand information from current MBA students who are willing to share their experiences. The more you know, the better your chances are of getting in.

4. Take the required exams seriously.

Study for your GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), GRE (Graduate Record Examination), or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) early. I was one of those twenty-something know-it-alls who thought I could get a decent GMAT score with only light reading, and boy was I wrong. So I studied properly, took lessons, and finally got a decent score.

5. Network, network, network!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, it helps to know someone who has graduated from the school you’re eyeing. In this world, there will always be secret handshakes to be privy to; which can give you access to knowledge and networking opportunities that will definitely get you in and ahead—after all a fraternity brother of a former alumni will always help out a fellow graduate who’s fully behind you. But while it helps with getting your foot in the door, that doesn’t mean that you’re a definite shoe-in for a slot. The next steps are still up to you.

6. Stay confident.

You may have your heart set on that Ivy League school of your dreams, but some schools’ acceptance rates are below 10%. Don’t let a denied application get you down. Keep on doing your best, and head on to another institution.

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